Parenting: There are Worse Things Than Yelling

This week I read, Huffington Post’s well shared piece, 10 Things I Learned When I Stopped Yelling at My Kids. I wholeheartedly agree that mothers need to keep their temper under control, and have written on this topic before:

“His words had really hurt me, and they were apparently still on his conscience. What if he hadn’t stepped on the thorn? Would he have had a chance to make things right? What if I had yelled at him and refused to help because of his negligence [disobedience] for not wearing shoes outside?” – Excerpt from Crying Over Spilled Oatmeal

However, it is important to remember that while lowering one’s voice may be like refraining from throwing gas on a fire, there is still a fire and it needs to be dealt with.

Face it — those of us who cringe when people yell (and are secretly freaked out at our own hypocrisy when we yell!) often avoid confrontation to begin with.

We’d rather escape.

Some of my personal favorite escapes are to mow the lawn or retreat to my peaceful comfort zone of weeding the garden outside…while all hell breaks loose in the house. I have also been known to spend an extra-long time in the shower, not just to get extra clean, but to drown out the sound of kids fighting over video games downstairs. It’s not as overt, but sometimes I “graciously” let my children play outside with friends while I stay inside (savoring the quiet as if it were a secret cigarette) cleaning up yet another my childrens’ ridiculous experimental cooking messes…when I should be doing the hard job of getting to the heart of why all five children refuse to follow through on their promise to clean up after themselves and are instead blaming their siblings for the mess.

Certainly, there is a time for peace and rest! As a parent, though escaping in the middle of a conflict with a child is like taking a nap on the job.

The Bible says, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” (John 14:27)

True peace is not simply the absence of yelling, or even the absence of conflict, but it comes from a heart that is steadfastly trusting in the Lord and His everlasting promises; a peace that is not dependent on circumstances. Attempting to control circumstances and manufacturing peace through any other means besides trusting in Christ is a sin. It’s called idolatry.

In Paul Tripp’s Book, Age of Opportunity , one of the first few foundational chapters deals with parental idols. Tripp describes how the worship of such idols shapes our responses to our children. About the idol of peace and comfort, he writes,

The Idol of Comfort. Secretly in our hearts, many of us want life to be a resort… We reason that we have a right to quiet, harmony, peace, and respect, and we respond in anger when we do not get it. Scripture warns us that life is far from being a resort. Life is war…the tumult, chaos and unrest of the teen years are not only the result of significant biological changes taking place, but because of the dramatic spiritual war going on as well.

Parents who demand comfort, ease, regularity, peace, space, quiet, and harmony will be ill-equipped for war. They will begin to see their teenager as the enemy. They will begin to fight with him rather than for him, and, even worse, they will tend to forget that the true nature of battle and the identity of the real enemy. They will act out of frustrated desire, doing and saying regrettable things, and they will fail to be effective and productive in those strategic moments of ministry in which God has placed them.”

(How did this description of my unchecked idolatrous heart end up in this parenting book?)

Those times when I choose to walk away and conveniently find something else to do? I’m walking out on “strategic moments of ministry”. Under the guise of being “peaceful”, I’m missing the moments God is placing in my life that He is not only using to help my children to grow and mature, but to help ME grow and mature.

It takes faith in God to stand on the promises of His word. It takes faith to be brave enough to speak truth in love, and when we do, we grow in Christ… and so do our children.

Upon realizing the patterns of my idolatrous heart, I confessed that I lacked faith and that I was more afraid of yelling and conflict with mouthy, lawyer-like children, than I was of obeying God and training my children up in the Lord. I confessed that I was more interested in the appearance of peace than the peace of Christ. I asked the Lord to forgive me and asked Him to work in my life, no matter what it takes, and to let me to be shaped by His leading and not by my personal comfort.

Worse than yelling is the negligence of our children’s spiritual nourishment. As Tripp points out, life is spiritual warfare. Ignoring heart issues and merely telling kids to be quiet, or being silent ourselves, does not equip children for battle.

I confessed to my children that I had not being diligent in teaching them, and asked them to forgive me. I made it clear that I would no longer be “tolerating” or turning a blind eye to sinful behavior, and that, even if it was uncomfortable or inconvenient for me, that I would be doing a better job of helping the children work through conflicts. I also made it a point to read The Young Peacemaker by Corlette Sande again with them, to better equip all of us for the conflicts we have been facing in our home. I reminded them that we were in it together, and that we were on the same team.

After two weeks of reading The Young Peacemaker together, I have to say that there has been an improvement of attitudes in our home… both in me, and in my children.

I leave my readers with the wise words of Elisabeth Elliot, which were shared with me by mother in law back in 2008:

The job has been given to me to do.
Therefore it is a gift.
Therefore it is a privilege.
Therefore it is an offering I may make to God.
Therefore it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him.
Therefore it is the route to sanctity.

How Tom Imagined Life Would Be

Smoke rings rose into a little cloud about Tom’s head as he sat, laptop open, at our dining room table. Four of our five children surrounded him with their character sheets and little piles of multicolored dice in front of them — it was their first time playing D&D.

On the other side of the wall, a swiveling butler door between us, I sautéed onions and used my favorite red spatula to encourage droplets of batter through a colander into a large pot of boiling water (and all over my counter and stove top).

My character, Danaë, a Wilden Shaman, will enter the campaign later.

Tomorrow, our church is having an Oktoberfest-themed fellowship meal, and I was preparing our two contributions:

A casserloe made of Spaetzle Casserole with Sautéed Onions, Gruyère and a pinch of Nutmeg
Spaetzle Casserole with Sautéed Onions, Gruyère and a pinch of Nutmeg
Braised Red Cabbage with Vinegar and Caraway
Braised Red Cabbage with Vinegar and Caraway

I brought in a bowl of the Spaetzle casserole mixture and a fork for Tom to try. “Oh, that’s good!” he said. “Hmm… does it need any salt?” he thought aloud. “Nope.. it’s perfect,” he concluded.

A few moments later, I brought in the brazed cabbage. This, too, met his taste-buds’ approval.

“You know, this is how I always imagined life would be,” he said.

“Smoking a pipe, and being your children’s Dungeon Master, while your wife brings in homemade German food for you to taste?” I said, smiling.

“Exactly.”

A Simple Observation on Fighting

“If you find yourself in the physiological frenzy called ‘flooding’ – racing heart, sweaty palms – stop the argument. Stress hormones inhibit higher cognitive functions, like impulse control and attention. When we feel threatened, we can’t take in new information. In the lab and in therapy sessions, when people take a break, go back to their baseline heart rate and start the conversation again, it’s like they’ve had a brain transplant. Starting a conversation gently is the key to ending it well. ” – John Gottman, Ph.D, co-founder of the Gottman Relationship Institute, as quoted in the January, 2013, issue of Real Simple magazine.

My comment: Yep!

Christmas in July: Used Books from Amazon

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  • Becoming a Father by William Sears (Reading this for work.)
  • Bubby’s Homemade Pies by Ron Silver and Jen Bervin (I had borrowed it from the library until I could no longer renew… love this comprehensive book on pies!)
  • The Yellow Pages Guide to Educational Field Trips (updated from Everything from A-Z Field Trips) by Gregg Harris (Homeschooling resource for the field trip group I am forming.)
  • Large Family Logistics: The Art and Science of Managing the Large Family by Kim Brenneman (Need I explain?)
  • Evel Knievel Had a Mother, Too

    Evel Knieval had a mother, too. There are days I wonder how she coped when her son was doing daring things that surely had her scrambling to help him or clean up after him at some point in his youth.

    Today, my Evel Knieval decided to put a large wad of paper on top of a lit candle and walk away from it. The candle was on the sill of a window, and the flames were as high as the bottom of the open wooden window. Another child saw it and screamed for help.

    Last week, Evel decided to walk home after being dropped off at a babysitter’s and break into our locked house to get his new rocks from the Natural History Museum to show to his friends. Tom called my cell phone to say he’d received a call at work saying that the motion sensors in our house had been set off and that the police were on their way. I was almost to my destination, but turned around. I came home to find my child sitting on our front porch, crying, and a police officer walking up our steps and asking him if he was okay.

    My child is brilliant when it comes to taking things apart, even if the deconstruction only occurs in his mind. When we were on the Shinkansen on the way to Hokkaido, he located the emergency door-control panels, fire extinguisher, English guide to the route, and bathrooms — all within the first ten minutes of boarding.

    He also quickly wanders off on his little quests of discovery. My first good scare occurred when he first start crawling. We were at a wedding and he swiftly crawled away from the kids’ play area. My son had found a hidden door and crawled up the stairs leading to the balcony where the sound and lighting systems were housed. The reception dances screeched to a halt as a woman started yelling that there was a baby about to fall through the bars of the balcony. A whole story above us, my son was teetering between bars wider than his chubby little body, laughing. It took several moments for us to find the door to even get to him to rescue him. Another time, when he was all of four, he got lost in Tokyo and walked over a mile to find us on the other side of a very large park. I’m thankful that he seems to have an innate compass, and that while he wanders away, lost in thought, he at least can find his way home… although we did have a pretty close call with him when he disappeared and ran off to see where the train tracks went. His guardian angels certainly have to work for their paychecks!

    But, he also has a very tender heart… if you can get to it. When he finally humbles himself and fesses up, he becomes a big puddle of tears and blames himself harshly.

    Today I had to explain to him that he has a pattern of doing things without thinking them through. The answer cannot simply be, “I don’t know why I did that!” In the case of the candle fire, and in breaking into our house, and a few other named problems he’d caused (for instance, a hole in the plaster wall hours before our house was to be shown by a Realtor) that these things warrant being confronted. I’m not trying to personally attack him — it would be wrong for me to turn a blind eye to them. It’s for his own growth that I must talk to him about these things!

    In response to his sobbing and his saying things like, “You think I’m stupid! You don’t love me! You hate everything that I do!”, I told him that I appreciated his mind, and that I am proud of him for wanting to understanding how things work. His skills are such a help to me for mechanically related projects — like taking apart our vacuum to thoroughly clean it out. I pointed out that, out of all of my children, he is the one for whom I have bought nice tools (not just plastic hammers, but the real thing — and nails to go with it!) and building toys designed for children way older than his age group. My goal is to encourage him in his endeavors… but with some boundaries.

    I told him, “It’s not enough to simply ask, “I wonder what would happen if….?” He must also stop and ask these two things:

    1. Could my actions endanger myself or someone else? (Yes = Need to ask permission!)
    2. Do I have permission from the owner to tinker with this object? (No = Need to ask permission!)

    And… if he is not sure of those two answers to please ask his parents.

    For those who are tinkerers or have children who are — any advice or encouragement for me? :D